A Time You Fought for Yourself

Last week, we gathered at The Wing to hear Hermione Hoby, Naima Coster, Melissa Febos, Michele Filgate, and Crystal McCreary read about a time they fought for themselves, and to raise essential funds for Taller Salud.

From Left: Natalka Burian, Freya Project co-founder, and readers Crystal McCreary, Hermione Hoby, Melissa Febos, Michele Filgate, and Naima Coster. Photo by Keira Chang.

From Left: Natalka Burian, Freya Project co-founder, and readers Crystal McCreary, Hermione Hoby, Melissa Febos, Michele Filgate, and Naima Coster. Photo by Keira Chang.

This event felt especially meaningful, because we saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford give her wrenching testimony that morning.

“I do think we should take a moment to recognize the testimony of Doctor Ford, and admire her and feel grateful to her,” said Freya Project co-founder Natalka Burian. “But also, to feel angry that this is still happening. We are allowed to feel all of these things, and we should, and I hope the stories you hear tonight from these brilliant some will show that range of emotions.”

Not only did our event coincide with Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony — it also falls just over one year after Hurricaine Maria, and its devastating effects on Puerto Rico. This is why we chose to give to Taller Salud: a community based, feminist organization dedicated to improving women’s access to health care, reducing violence within the community and encouraging economic growth through education and activism.

Right after the hurricanes Irma and Maria, we saw how the women in Loíza went out to protect their families and, with the help we received from abroad, our communities reached a certain degree of stability by the beginning of 2018. However, the preexisting inequality to the hurricanes did not diminish but increased. Violence against women also increased: today we have twice as many women murdered as at the same date of the previous year. Today our communities are poorer and have fewer opportunities than before.

Given our experience through social work with women, we identify the vulnerabilities and strengths that emerged in them before, during and after the disaster. In a few words, we can say that their courage is amazing and that they are worthy of all possible help to repair their homes, provide them with opportunities to an education and facilitate economic development for them and their families. This is why we carry out this message, so that the fate of the billions of dollars received for the recovery of Puerto Rico becomes aligned with the needs and priorities of the women. We want to decide our future and we reaffirm that without the voices of women, the recovery of Puerto Rico cannot be called recovery.
— Tania Rosario Méndez, executive director of Taller Salud

We’re grateful to The Wing for opening their space to us.

It was incredibly special for us to share space with other women, to give our attention to stories of triumph and perseverance, of self-discovery and self-affirmation.

These are some of our most memorable moments.

I’ve left relationships, negotiated salaries, asked big favors, sent bold emails and, finally, published a novel that for five or six years was a source of doubt and despair. All of these fights have made me, have tested out the contours of who I am and who I might become, but the vegetarianism fight, so large then, so small-seeming now, was the first. Becoming ourselves takes so long, a lifetime really, but it also begins so much sooner than we think. So much sooner than we give the small and ridiculous among us.
— Hermione Hoby
I had a feeling that I was weeping for more human suffering than merely my own. It was as if I empathetically united my personal experience with that of an unseen collective body of pain and suffering. I wondered if these people and vague faces that I made out in my mind were my ancestors, or another version of myself in another space and time. The outpouring was a keening without sound, like the cracking open of rigid emotional tension that yearned for centuries to pour out of my muscles, my cells and even my DNA.
— Crystal McCreary
18 is when you’re too dumb to realize that all that exists between life and death is a thin line, and you try to walk that line instead...I am old enough to vote, and I am old enough to have sex with older men, but I am not old enough to run away from bad situations. I am barely old enough to stare them right in the face.
— Michele Filgate
My bids for power were swiftly shut down, but I still claimed my independence in small, unseen ways. There was the radio and rock music. The forbidden thoughts I recorded in my diary. i slouched in class and I talked back to my parents in my head even though I couldn’t out loud. I shook my hips at the white boys at parties and dances. I told lies to the girls at school about my life. I hiked up my skirt an inch or two.
— Naima Coster
Before I learned about beauty, I delighted in my body. I was a strong passionate child with callused feet and lots of words. I talked fast and I moved faster — through the woods around our home, up trees, into the ocean, finely tuned to the swells of my own and others’ hearts I sensed a deep well at my center that sometimes bubbled over. I would read or think or feel myself into a brimming state and then lie with my back to the ground, body vibrating, heart thudding, mind foaming, thrilled and afraid that I might combust, I might die of feeling too much.
— Melissa Febos
All event photos by Keira Chang.

All event photos by Keira Chang.

If you missed the event and still want to support Taller Salud, please make a donation today.

If you want to make sure that The Freya Project can continue to inspire and support women across the country, make a donation to support our operations.